Dazzling Views of Mars with the James Webb Space Telescope Presented Today at EPSC2022
September 19, 2022

Dazzling Views of Mars with the James Webb Space Telescope Presented Today at Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured its first images and spectra of Mars on 5 September. The telescope, an international collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the CSA (Canadian Space Agency), provides a unique perspective with its infrared sensitivity on our neighboring planet, complementing data being collected by orbiters, rovers, and other telescopes. The images were presented today at a briefing at EPSC2022, and reported in a blog on the NASA website.


In an interview at EPSC2022, Dr Niamh Shaw spoke with the team behind the new images about their first glimpse of Mars with Webb.


Webb’s first images of Mars, captured by its NIRCam instrument Sept. 5, 2022 [Guaranteed Time Observation Program 1415]. Left: Reference map of the observed hemisphere of Mars from NASA and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA). Top right: NIRCam image showing 2.1-micron (F212 filter) reflected sunlight, revealing surface features such as craters and dust layers. Bottom right: Simultaneous NIRCam image showing ~4.3-micron (F430M filter) emitted light that reveals temperature differences with latitude and time of day, as well as darkening of the Hellas Basin caused by atmospheric effects. The bright yellow area is just at the saturation limit of the detector. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team.
Webb’s first near-infrared spectrum of Mars, captured by the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) Sept. 5, 2022, as part of the Guaranteed Time Observation Program 1415, over 3 slit gratings (G140H, G235H, G395H). The spectrum is dominated by reflected sunlight at wavelengths shorter than 3 microns and thermal emission at longer wavelengths. Preliminary analysis reveals the spectral dips appear at specific wavelengths where light is absorbed by molecules in Mars’ atmosphere, specifically carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water. Other details reveal information about dust, clouds, and surface features. By constructing a best-fit model of the spectrum, by the using, for example, the Planetary Spectrum Generator, abundances of given molecules in the atmosphere can be derived. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team.